President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, January 8, joked about kidnapping and torturing the Commission on Audit (COA) personnel who make life hard for local government officials.
“Ah, p**t**g**a COA yan, letse. Yung COA, every time, may mali talaga. Ano ba itong COA na ito? Mag kidnap tayo ng taga COA, lagay natin dito, torture natin dito. T*****a. (Those sons of bitches in COA. That COA, every time, it has something wrong with it. What’s with this COA? Let’s just kidnap COA [officials], put them here, and torture them. Son of a bitch),” he said in a speech during the Barangay Summit on Peace and Order in Pasay City.
The president railed against COA for making things difficult for government officials, which is part of his continuing diatribes against the bureaucratic processes he sees as obstacles to governance.
“Puro yan pahirapan. Yan ang ayaw ko — ang pahirapan. (All it does is make things difficult. That’s what I don’t want — making things difficult),” Duterte said.
“Sino ba gusto makulong nang ano? Pero yung ano, pahirapan, ‘yan ang ayaw ko, yang pahirapan (Who wants to be jailed? But making things difficult, that’s what I don’t like),” he added.
Duterte slammed COA last year as well, making a joke about throwing a COA auditor down the stairs. The remark was born after Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos claimed that COA did not allow cash advances for the purchase of building materials intended for disaster victims.
Sino’ng taga-COA dito? Ihulog mo na sa hagdan para ‘di mag-report (Who’s from COA? Push him down the stairs so he won’t be able to file a report anymore),” he said in September.
Duterte also criticized the circulars released by the state audit agency.
“Some guys in the government went to jail based on a circular, and other guys went scot-free because of the same circular. Ganun ka-cockeyed. Depende nalang saan nila eh whether they swing the legal arguments (That’s how cockeyed [they are]. It all depends on them whether they swing the legal arguments),” he said.
He added that the circulars are useless unless they are made into law.
Due to the president’s tirades, former COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza had to remind the public that COA personnel deserve respect as they play a critical role in safeguarding public funds.
The COA regularly reports on how local government units spend their funds. And while Mendoza admitted that some COA guidelines may appear “impractical” and “outdated”, these rules are still in place to ensure public officials are held accountable for how they spend taxpayers’ money.
COA has been instrumental for the Duterte administration when it came to revealing mismanagement of funds — thus helping the president fulfill his promise of weeding out corruption by firing these officials.
COA was the one that flagged the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) millions of pesos worth of advertisements that aired during the PTV show of then-tourism secretary Wanda Teo’s brother.
It was through COA’s report that revealed former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation interim president Celestina de la Serna’s extravagant travel expenses.
COA was also the one that identified anomalous contracts entered into by the Presidential Communications Operations Office for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit hosting.